The Longhorns appear to be in their comeback era. Can they keep up the momentum?

Texas will face off against longtime rival Oklahoma this weekend.

By Alexandra HartOctober 6, 2023 11:45 am,

“Is Texas Back?”

In recent years the question has been more rhetorical, if not actually a bit a joke, much to the chagrin of Longhorn football fans. The team has had years of strong pre-season showings and false starts only to put up lackluster performances as the seasons progressed. 

But with a 5-0 record so far this year, it’s starting to look more and more like the Longhorns could, in fact, be back 

But with some tough games ahead, fans are wondering: Will it last? 

Danny Davis, University of Texas sports reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, analyzes the team’s season so far, and what’s ahead. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: The Longhorns have had quite a season so far. That big win over Alabama, the crown jewel of that 5-0 record so far. Tell us about some of the more notable moments.

Danny Davis: Yeah, obviously. I mean, anytime you can go into Alabama and into that stadium with 100,000 people booing you and you can record a win over a team like that, that gives you just a lot of reason to be optimistic for the season.

And then to back that up with some good wins – going to Waco and beating Baylor, beating a ranked Kansas team this past weekend. I mean, there’s reason why these fans are optimistic, but, you know, this weekend’s coming up. So a lot more tests coming up.

Yeah, this weekend is one heck of a test, too, against, I believe, 12th-ranked Oklahoma now? It’s 11th or 12th I’ve seen in different polls.

Oklahoma’s No. 12, Texas is No. 3 in the AP poll.

Wow. So it’s going to be quite a contest, or at least it sounds like it’s going to be. So what’s your take? Is this something of a course correction this season compared to previous years? I mean, the Horns have struggled in the past. Why do they seem to be doing so well now?

I think it’s just kind of like with anything in life.

I mean, you see, Sarkisian came in in 2021. You know, it may taken a little time for these players to adjust and get used to the Sarkisian system, which is why there is those struggles in the first year. They made some strides last year and this is just kind of year three with his coaching staff, with him getting his players, his recruits in the building.

I think this is kind of what Texas was hoping for when they hired him. I mean, it was a rough beginning and a lot of people, myself included, were kind of wondering if he was the right hire. But it’s kind of looking like they’re heading in the right direction.

Granted, they could stub their toe this weekend. They could all go stumbling downhill quickly. But it kind of seems like this is a matter of, you know, getting Steve to run the program he wanted to run and it just took three years for that to happen.

So you’re thinking a lot about the coaching staff settling in and finding its stride. What about key players? Is this an exceptional team by your reckoning?

Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of veterans on this team.

I mean, your quarterback, this is his third year of college, second year as a starter. A lot of the key players on defense, they’re veterans. You have Jordan Whittington, one of their receivers, I believe this is his fifth year. And some other juniors, seniors, guys who have just been around the block for a while.

There’s not a lot of freshmen that this team is dependent on. There’s a couple who are, you know, getting their feet wet and kind of getting used to college football. But this is a team of a lot of players who have played a lot of college football. They’ve been in the system for two or three years now. And so they kind of know what’s going on. And you can kind of see that.

I mean, there’s a difference between juniors and freshmen playing college football. It’s a completely different world. And I think Texas is reaping the benefits of, you know, guys sticking around for a couple of years and just playing college football.

So what are you watching for as the Longhorns head to Dallas for their Red River showdown against the Sooners?

I think this is probably the best quarterback Texas has faced this season.

Texas has had a pretty incredible run of facing backup quarterbacks the last three weeks. The starting quarterback has been injured for the opponent that they played. But Dillon Gabriel, he’s a veteran player who transferred in from Central Florida to Oklahoma – actually missed the game last year, which is why it was such a blowout. I don’t know if he would have made up that 49-0 difference, but the game would have been a lot more competitive. And so this is probably the best offense this team has seen.

I’m not really sure I buy into the Oklahoma defense, but I think from here on out, Texas is going to be probably favored in every game they play until the postseason. So it’s just kind of can they manage expectations and, you know, play the way that they will play in these first five weeks?

All right. I’m going to ask the question – no snickering or giggling. Is Texas back?

I don’t know if Texas is back, because they’re not standing on that podium at the end of the year yet holding that ball. But obviously, those reasons to be excited about this team.

I’m not going to say they’re back yet because the last time that happened at Texas, I don’t think people want to talk about it too much with what Sam said after that Sugar Bowl in [2019], but Texas is definitely trending trending that way.

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